Asia churches forming Hawaii Pacific assoc.

KIHEI, Maui (BP) -- Five churches in South Korea and Japan are working to establish a new association of Baptist churches within the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

The churches voiced their intentions at the HPBC annual meeting, Hawaii Pacific Baptist executive director Chris Martin told Baptist Press. The churches are already aligned with and supporting Hawaii Pacific convention work, he said, but want to officially organize an association across the Pacific Ocean.

"They actually are very committed to doing this together. The association is there; it's not formally shaped yet, but the work is already there," Martin said. "And the majority of that is simply because they are connected through the HPBC. They see it as just a natural extension."

Many of the churches were planted by International Mission Board missionaries and have operated as International Baptist churches, Martin said. They are Koza Baptist Church, Okinawa, Japan;

Yokohama International Baptist Church, Yokohama, Japan; Tokyo Baptist Church, Tokyo; Seoul International Baptist Church, Seoul, South Korea, and Songtan Baptist Church, Eyoung-Taek, South Korea. The five churches have a total membership of 2,500-2,700, Martin said.

Geographical constraints have not prevented the churches from working on both continents, Martin said. Among many of the churches' outreaches, Tokyo Baptist Church sent three mission teams to Hawaii this year, before aligning with the HPBC, and Yokohama International Baptist Church sent 16 high school students to summer camp in Oahu this year, Martin said.

"The people of Hawaii are such an international mix anyway. A lot of our churches have already been partnering together, even before the affiliation with these churches. And these churches were coming into Hawaii to do ministry alongside of our churches," he said. "Over the past several years, we've had a strong connection with them in missions and ministry."

The 150 HPBC churches are actively working to reach the Unengaged Unreached People Groups on IMB's radar, Martin said.

"This relationship with the IMB is a two-way street. We want to help the IMB personnel, but at the same time, we want to give them an opportunity … to communicate the needs to us and how we can better serve them too," Martin said. "It's essentially a great partnership that we want to continue to see develop and especially, centralizing around our Asian churches."

Seoul International Baptist Church was the first to align with the HPBC. Tokyo Baptist Church aligned this year, and a sixth church is currently in the process of aligning, Martin said.

"Many others have looked, just saying we want to see about making this alignment as well," Martin said. "The reason they chose to come in was because they wanted to affiliate with Southern Baptists because that was their foundation. They were all born from IMB."

The Asian churches are effectively training international church workers, Martin said, because they were planted near military bases and their populations are transient.

"These churches are equipping churches that are mainland, just by their semi-transient nature," he said. "You're seeing men and women raised up to be church planters, pastors and other leaders. [These churches] are proving to do a great job raising up leaders in a difficult environment through an international style church."

Martin will meet with the five pastors and other Asian and Southeast Asian pastors in Manila, Philippines in February to continue formalizing the group, and hear from additional pastors interested in the HPBC. Martin previously met with pastors by Skype on Dec. 8.

Discussions to form the association began at the HPBC annual meeting, held Nov. 6-7 at Kihei Baptist Chapel in Kihei, Maui, attended by 157 registered messengers and 54 guests representing 73 churches.

In annual meeting business, messengers approved a $3,277,254 budget for 2015 -- an increase over the 2014 budget of $3,168,898 -- anticipating $1,237,300 in Cooperative Program gifts from HPBC churches.

The HPBC will continue to allocate 31.5 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to national and international missions and ministries.

Newly elected officers are president Alberto Camacho, pastor of Filipino International Baptist Church, Oahu; first vice president Daniel Tomita, pastor of Kinoole Baptist Church, Big Island, Hawaii;

second vice president John Endriss, pastor of Engage Church, Big Island; and recording Nancy Whitehead, a member of Ocean View Baptist Church, Big Island.

In addition to Tokyo Baptist Church, both Engage Church and Ohana Church on Big Island, affiliated with the HPBC at the annual meeting.

Videos from the annual meeting can still be viewed at www.ustream.tv/channel/hpbc-hawaii. The 2015 meeting will be held Nov. 5-6 on Oahu. The host church has not been named.

Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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